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Les Girls

Les Girls(1957)

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The film's opening title cards read: "Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer presents A Sol C. Siegel Production of Cole Porter's Les Girls." Throughout the film, an older man passes by the court building carrying a sign that asks, "What Is Truth?" According to a October 20, 1955 Hollywood Reporter news item, Leslie Caron, Cyd Charisse and Carol Haney were originally cast to star in the film, but were later replaced. According to a biography of director George Cukor, when M-G-M insisted on using actress Mitzi Gaynor, Cukor originally objected to the decision, but later relented after studio pressure. May and July 1956 Hollywood Reporter news items state that producer Siegel and Cukor had planned to scout locations in Paris, Lisbon and Moscow for the film, but, according to modern sources, M-G-M restricted the shooting to Hollywood due to budget constraints.
       The film's credits list Vera Caspary as author of the story and John Patrick as the screenwriter; however, contemporary and modern sources differ as to the origin of the source material for the film. According to information on the film contained in the M-G-M files at the USC Cinema-Television Archives, an article in the July 1955 Atlantic magazine entitled Les Girls by Constance Tomkinson, which was later expanded into a book of the same name, was used by M-G-M in its initial treatments for the film; however, no correspondence between the author and the studio has been found. The autobiographical writings were about Tomkinson, a Canadian clergyman's daughter, who spent several months in the chorus line of the Folies Bergre and toured Europe with various dance troupes. Review of the contents of the files reveal that Tomkinson's writings bear a few similarities to the film's screenplay, but key elements of the film Les Girls, for example, the libel suit and the three female leads' relationships, are not found in Tomkinson's works. Modern sources state that after M-G-M bought Caspary's story Les Girls, Siegel instructed screenplay writer John Patrick not to read it. When the screenplay was finished, Cukor at first rejected Patrick's idea for the girls living in an attic apartment because of the difficulties in shooting in a long and narrow space. In a modern interview, Cukor said that he accompanied art director Gene Allen and color coordinator Hoyningen-Huene to Paris, where they visited French apartments and Folies Bergre performances to resolve the potential difficulties and do set research.
       According to other information on the film contained in the M-G-M files, associate producer Saul Chaplin also worked on the score for the film. Only a limited number of the songs from Porter's score were included in the final film. Among those cut were "High Flyin' Wings on My Shoes," "Drinking Song," "I Could Kick Myself," "My Darling Never Is Late," "My Little Piece o' Pie," "What Fun" and "You're the Prize Guy of Guys." Modern sources state that these cuts were due to M-G-M budget constraints. According a May 17, 1957 Hollywood Reporter news item, choreographer Jack Cole became ill during the final weeks of production and Kelly directed the remaining dance sequences. Modern sources add that Kelly choreographed the dance sequence entitled "Motorcycle Ballet." Modern sources add Dick Alexander to the cast and state that, at one time, Jean Simmons was to co-star with Caron, Charisse and Haney.
       The film won an Academy Award for Best Costume Design and was nominated for Best Art Direction and Best Sound. In addition, Les Girls was selected for Britain's Royal Command Performance, an honor bestowed upon only one, usually British, film each year. Patrick and Caspary won a Writer's Guild Award for Best Written American Musical.
       Les Girls marked actor Gene Kelly's last film musical and his last M-G-M appearance until a small part in That's Entertainment (1974). For additional information on his career, please consult the entry for For Me and My Gal in AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1941-50. The film was also Porter's last complete score written directly for film, although he later created several musical numbers for the film version of his Broadway hit Silk Stockings (see below). British actress Kay Kendall (1926-1959) made her American film debut in Les Girls. As noted in reviews, her drunken, operatic rendition of "Habanera" served as one of the film's finest comic moments. She made only two additional films before her death from leukemia, The Reluctant Debutante and Once More with Feeling (see entries below).